Just when the weather in Cleveland finally becomes bearable, I hop on a plane and head to Arizona for some Cactus League action. The minute I touched down, I headed straight to Peoria for some Indians vs. Mariners action (because I’d waited long enough for baseball…BASEBALL NOW). So I’ve put together some pictures and some thoughts on today’s game. The game was televised, so many of you likely watched it as well (if your work schedule cooperated) so I’m going to try and avoid as much basic play-by-play as possible.
I was already looking forward to Carlos Carrasco’s spring debut, when I arrived at the park and saw that Jason Kipnis and Brandon Moss were both in the lineup. So far, the Indians had been conservative with both of them due to their recovery from injuries (as well as Nick Swisher) so I was pleased to see that they’d progressed far enough to appear in a game.
The Indians offense didn’t do much today, particularly in the early innings. In fact, Kipnis’s leadoff single in the top of the first was their lone hit until the top of the sixth inning. While that may sound somewhat bad (particularly since the starting lineup early in the game was filled with regulars) I thought that the Mariners’ pitching early on looked sharp. Taijuan Walker and Tyler Olson in particular were impressive, as Walker did a nice job of painting the corners throughout the afternoon.
And speaking of corners – at least from where I was sitting, it looked like the home plate umpire was somewhat liberal with calling the outside part of the plate. Which is fine…it’s a spring training game after all, and he appeared to be fairly consistent with both teams. However, the Mariners fans sitting around me started to take things a little too seriously. They started by heckling and yelling at the umpire when an Indians pitcher would get a liberal strike call. At first I joked that even fans need some time to fine-tune their regular season heckling. After a while, it started to get annoying. While I’m sure many of these people (maybe even the majority) were doing it in a light-hearted manner, several of the people directly around me were absolutely outraged. This injustice cannot continue! It’s March 9. Relax, enjoy the fact that you get to sit in the sun and watch some baseball. Take a deep, cleansing breath. There was an Indians fan behind me that decided to jokingly start to heckle close Indians calls, mirroring the Mariners fans. I thought everyone would have a nice laugh (again, spring training!) but these angry Mariners fans turned on him like jackals. Because terrible, unjust strike calls are a serious matter and nothing to joke about. (spring training!)
When the Mariners finally walked off in the bottom of the ninth, after a triple and a sacrifice fly off of Nick Maronde, I thought all would be forgiven from the angry folks. But the woman next to me screamed a bunch of stuff at the umpire (as the team was literally walking off the field with a win) and yelled about how it never should have been that close, and stormed off. I wish I would’ve videotaped all of this for the next time my family tells me I’m taking the baseball season too seriously. At least I wait until July for my tantrums, like any self-respecting overly-angry, immature fan.
So what about the Indians’ pitchers? I thought Carrasco looked fantastic, particularly during the first two innings. In the third he gave up the solo home run to Brad Miller, but was otherwise pretty sharp. Bruce Chen wasn’t a complete dumpster fire…it could’ve been much worse. He served up two big home runs, one to Mike Zunino and another one to Miller, that felt like they should’ve done more damage than just one run a piece. (This is about the highest praise I can give Chen, which as you can see, is not very high). Marc Rzepczynski and Scott Downs each had a clean inning (and I think Downs has a decent chance to make the Opening Day roster). The leadoff triple burned Maronde and was the difference in the game. While Maronde had a pretty bad season in Anaheim last year (leading the Angels to cut ties with him) he’s only 25-years-old and has showed promise in the minors. I’d love to see the Indians get him turned around.
Also of note – Brandon Moss went 1 for 3 in his Indians debut, as he belted a solo home run to tie the game at 3 in the top of the seventh.
This game went incredibly fast; I was actually hoping for a 10th inning just for an excuse to sit outside in the sun for a little longer. I’m not sure if it’s because of the new time-saving items they’ve introduced, but today’s game only took 2 hours and 21 minutes. To be fair, every spring training game I went to last year finished in under three hours as well. I’m just used to past seasons, where all of the scoring and position changes led to 4 hour games.
It’s just good to see baseball again…I can’t wait to go back tomorrow!
Here are some pictures from the ballpark in Peoria: